How to Become a
Sommelier

Man holding and observing a glass with wine

When considering the wide range of career paths available, researching careers that interest you makes sense. That’s where we come in. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide about becoming a Sommelier. Keep reading to find out all you need to know about a career path as a Sommelier, including training information and job outlook data.

What Does a Sommelier Do?

A Sommelier, also sometimes known as a wine steward, has an extensive knowledge of wine, its origin and production. Sommeliers find employment in upscale food service and hospitality locations that stock unique and expensive wines. Some Sommeliers also work as wine consultants to businesses, industry groups and citizens. They advise people on what wines to purchase for different occasions or special events to make the best impression. Other Sommeliers venture into entrepreneurship and open their own wine shops in upscale areas where they offer wine lovers a well-chosen selection of fine wines as well as the knowledge to assist customers in making decisions about choosing, storing and serving wine.

Additional Sommelier Tasks include:

  • Craft strategies for increasing wine sales and train others to implement them

  • Create and update wine inventory lists for ordering purposes

  • Select wines that fit different types of customer budgets or expectations

  • Keep an eye on the wine market and pricing trends to stay within budget while still stocking a nice selection of product

Sommelier Skills

Some of the most important skills a sommelier must have to be successful are being extremely knowledgeable about wines, having the ability to communicate well and being approachable to others. The sommelier must have extensive knowledge about wine because people will look to him or her to educate them on the different wines that may be of interest to them. Communication is key because the sommelier needs to be able to successfully speak with staff members, management, clients and suppliers. The sommelier also needs to be able to respond quickly and thoughtfully to customer complaints. A confident and friendly manner will put clientele at ease and make them feel comfortable about asking questions.

Other Sommelier Skills include:

  • the ability to anticipate what customers may want next

  • the ability to articulate well to represent the business well

  • the ability to mentor others who want to learn the craft

  • the ability to guide others in serving customers well

  • a sensitive and discerning palate to make successful pairings

How Do You Become a Sommelier?

Education and Training

According to our analysis of online job postings, many employers are looking for Sommeliers who have had education or hold certification in wine tasting and pairing. The certification proves expertise, which is critical in this line of work. Some culinary institutes offer this type of certification. In addition, higher levels of education and recognition can be achieved by obtaining a certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers, but this path is not common. Gaining the certification requires the completion of an introductory course followed by a successful score on the certification exam, which includes questions that extensively test the person’s knowledge of wine. It also includes a series of blind tastings that test how well the test-taker’s palate can discern between wines. There are some Sommeliers who have amassed a great deal of valuable knowledge in real-world settings without formal education or certification, but having some education and certification can make it easier and faster to gain employment.

Finding a job

Demand for Sommeliers depends on the wine market.  Demand for these jobs will be higher in metropolitan areas or areas with upper-class restaurants and hotels.  When building your experience, seek out jobs at wine bars, tasting rooms or catering services. Working in these types of situations can help you gain valuable experience and knowledge, especially if you’re lucky enough to connect with a knowledgeable mentor.

Every well-planned Sommelier’s job search starts with crafting a high-quality resume that highlights your skills and experience. For help creating a resume, take a look at our library of Sommelier resume samples.

Once your resume is ready, search online for Sommelier job opportunities. As you search for openings, be sure to leverage your professional network, including people you worked with in the food or hospitality industry.

When applying for Sommelier positions, create a cover letter that expresses your interest in the position and highlights your qualifications and what you can bring to the role. Need some inspiration for your cover letter? Check out our collection of cover letter samples.

Insights about Sommelier

In order to get an inside look at how to become a Sommelier, we talked to Manny Paredes, a Sommelier atTavern62 by David Burke. Here’s what he had to say:

What is the common career path for Sommelier?

Start as soon as possible learning all you can. The more the better. Travel to important wine regions. Studying books will help you but there is nothing like seeing the great vineyards with your own eyes.  Love what you do. The rest will come later.

What should someone consider before becoming a Sommelier?

Never stop studying and learning, be willing to work every day, and you must have a passion for wine. A Sommelier is an individual who sacrifices and dedicates all of their time to studying wines, with the goal to share their knowledge with those who do not have time to do so.

What type of person excels in this job?

There are no secrets – just people with passion and dedication.

What are some of the most important skills for a Sommelier to have?

Being a Sommelier is hard, daily work so a person must have a genuine interest and love for wine. They should be humble, friendly and diplomatic. A good Sommelier should understand people quickly, and should not teach, but share information with their guests.

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspects of being a Sommelier?

Nothing is more rewarding than meeting new people every day, as well as discovering new cultures, histories and traditions.

How Much Do Sommeliers Get Paid?

Sommeliers earn a median hourly wage in the United States of around $32. The lowest-paid Sommeliers make around $18 hourly, while the highest-paid can earn more than $46 per hour.

Top 10 States for Sommelier’s Salary

Sommeliers in the following states make the highest median hourly wage in the U.S.:

    California

    $32.00

    New York City

    $30.00

    Washington D.C.

    $28.00

    Delaware

    $28.00

    Oregon

    $27.00

    Illinois

    $27.00

    Nevada

    $26.00

    Texas

    $26.00

    Miami

    $25.00

    Virginia

    $24.00

    Sommelier Resources

    Want more information? We put together this list of extra resources to assist you as you continue exploring a career as a Sommelier.

    On the Web

    Ask a Sommelier: Which Wine Books do you Love?
    an informative article chock full of fantastic wine book recommendations from those in the industry who know.

    Secret Life of a Sommelier
    insightful article about what it’s like to be a Sommelier

    Books

    How to Taste: A Guide to Enjoying Wine
    a guide for all levels wine connoisseurs, which includes practical tasting exercises.

    The Sommelier Prep Course: An Introduction to the Wines, Beers, and Spirits of the World
    a go-to comprehensive resource for information on wine, beer and spirits

    Industry Groups

    Court of Master Sommeliers
    created to support the improvement of standards of wine knowledge and service in the hospitality and food service industries.

    United States Sommelier Association
    a non-profit organization committed to the teaching and promoting of wine culture to people who love wine and professionals in the wine industry